Canada to host 2015 Women's World Cup

OTTAWA - From Parliament Hill to the snow-covered playgrounds, Canada has welcomed the chance to host the 2015 Women's World Cup after FIFA rubber-stamped their application at a meeting in Switzerland on Thursday.

Canada was left as the lone candidate to stage the seventh edition of the quadrennial tournament after Zimbabwe withdrew their bid earlier this week.

"We would like to thank FIFA for entrusting the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) with this prestigious event," CSA president Dominic Maestracci said in a statement.

The 2015 tournament will be the largest women's World Cup ever held after FIFA agreed to expand the number of competing countries from 16 to 24 and increase the total number of games from 32 to 52.

The venues have yet to be decided but seven cities were listed as potential hosts in the bid document: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Moncton.

The United States hosted the women's World Cup in 1999 and 2003 and the decision to award the 2015 event to Canada is a further demonstration of the increasing popularity of the sport in North America.

Hockey-mad Canada now has three franchises in Major League Soccer, the premier men's competition in North America, and the CSA said football was now the most popular female sport in Canada, with 400,000 registered females.

"We have an exceptional national women's football program and it will be exciting to see our team compete here," Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

The next women's World Cup will be held in Germany later this year. Canada qualified after winning the CONCACAF women's Gold Cup.